Mank leads diverse field of Oscar nominees

Netflix film earns 10 nods; for the first time, two women are recognised for directing - Chloe Zhao, the first Chinese woman and first woman of colour to be nominated for best director, and Emerald Fennell

Published Wed, Mar 17, 2021 · 05:50 AM

Los Angeles

DAVID Fincher's black-and-white meditation on old Hollywood, Mank, received 10 Academy Award nominations on Monday, leading a diverse set of films and filmmakers after a year in which the movie industry was transformed by the pandemic and the Oscar season was pushed back two months.

The Netflix-produced film was nominated in the best picture, director, actor and supporting actress categories.

Voters recognised a number of films in multiple categories, with six nominations each going to The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah and The Father. All of those films were nominated for best picture, along with Promising Young Woman.

For the first time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated two women for best director, recognising Chloé Zhao for her work on Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman.

Also nominated were Fincher, Lee Isaac Chung of Minari, a semi-autobiographical tale about a Korean American family, and, in a surprise, Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, for his work on Another Round, about middle-age men who decide to get drunk daily. It was also recognised in the best international film category.

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"I'm grateful to have gone on this journey with our talented team of filmmakers and to have met so many wonderful people who generously shared their stories with us," Zhao said in a statement about her film, which features a number of non-actors who are part of the nomad community in the US.

"Thank you so much to my academy peers for recognising this film that is very close to my heart."

Nine of the 20 acting nominations went to people of colour. Although the academy, which has 9,137 voting members, remains overwhelmingly white and male, the organisation has invited more women and people of colour into its ranks following the intense #OscarsSoWhite outcry in 2015 and 2016, when the acting nominees were all white. This year, nominations in the lead actor category went to Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) and Steven Yeun (Minari). Gary Oldman (Mank) and Anthony Hopkins (The Father) rounded out the category.

Yeun is the first Asian American to be nominated for best actor and Ahmed is the first Muslim to be nominated for best actor.

For best actress, the academy recognised Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) and Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). Also nominated were Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman) and Frances McDormand (Nomadland).

It was a year in which streaming took firm hold in Hollywood, thanks to the theatre shutdowns caused by the coronavirus.

Contenders such as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Mank, One Night in Miami and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm were released by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Even releases from traditional studios, such as Searchlight's Nomadland and Judas and the Black Messiah, from Warner Bros, were probably watched by more people on streaming services rather than in the limited number of theatres that could show them.

Netflix leads with 35 nominations

"We were starving for film, starving for new stuff to watch and I recognised that I probably wasn't alone in that," said Shaka King, writer-director of Judas and the Black Messiah, who has spent most of the pandemic quarantining in his New York home.

"In a lot of ways, I think we got to folks who otherwise would not have ventured to the theatres to see a movie about a Black Marxist revolutionary. They ended up watching it and a lot of people who would have been repelled by his politics probably connected to them in some way."

As expected, Netflix dominated, with 35 nominations. With the majority of theatres closed this year, many of the major studios moved their Oscar contenders into next year's competition.

Still, the manner in which Netflix has hammered its way into Hollywood's most prestigious club in recent years is stunning: It had as few as eight nominations in 2018.

The company with the second-largest number of nominations this year was Disney, which had 15.

Its Searchlight division scored for Nomadland, while Pixar's Soul was recognised for its score, sound and in the best animated feature category. Pixar's Onward was also nominated for best animated feature.

Apple joins the Oscar race

Amazon Studios earned 12 nominations, including the recognition for Sound of Metal. One Night in Miami received three nominations and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm got two.

For the first time, Apple joined the Oscar race, with its Wolfwalkers which was nominated for best animated feature, and Greyhound which was nominated for best sound.

Traditional studios were still a significant presence, with films such as Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros) and The Father (Sony Pictures Classics).

Focus Features, the indie division of Universal, scored five nominations for Promising Young Woman, even though its parent company was shut out of the best picture race for News of the World. (That film was nominated in various technical categories, including sound and cinematography.)

The Oscars ceremony, which was pushed back by two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be held on April 25.

The secretive academy has kept details under wraps, except to say that it will take place at two locations this year - the usual Dolby Theater in Hollywood and Union Station downtown. NYTIMES

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